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WHO lifts HK travel alert

Hong Kong/Taipei, May 23 (Reuters): The World Health Organisation (WHO) today withdrew its warning against travel to Hong Kong and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, saying the SARS outbreaks there were under control.

A top Hong Kong scientist said it was likely that the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which has killed nearly 700 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide, jumped to humans from civet cats, considered a delicacy in southern China.

Despite the fact that Hong Kong is still the second most affected SARS area outside mainland China, WHO said the rate of daily infections and the number of outstanding cases had dropped to within limits set for travel alerts. The decision to remove the travel advisory, issued on April 2, was a huge relief for Hong Kong, a former British colony where the trade-reliant economy has suffered severely.

The lifting of the travel alert came as Hong Kong announced two more SARS deaths but only two fresh cases.

The UN health agency also lifted its advisory against neighbouring Guangdong province, where the new disease is believed to have emerged in November before being spread around the world by travellers.

The illness, fatal in about 15 per cent of cases, is caused by a virus linked to the common cold.

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